Federal authorities can withhold mug shots from release due to privacy concerns, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Thursday.
The court, sitting en banc, overturned its 1996 decision, which held that there was no privacy interest to justify exempting federal mug shots from the Freedom of Information Act. The new ruling will not necessarily keep all mug shots from being released, but it will require a case-by-case consideration of whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs privacy interests.
“A disclosed booking photo casts a long, damaging shadow over the depicted individual,” Judge Deborah Cook wrote for the majority in the 9-7 decision.
The majority argued that the digital age has made privacy concerns even more pressing.